'WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE DEAD' 15 Year Anniversary Tour
ARMOR FOR SLEEP
NEVER LOVED and SILENCE OF YOU
ARMOR FOR SLEEP
What To Do When You Are Dead, Armor For Sleep’s second installment is a record that will breathe new life into the carcass of thought provoking albums that has been lying on the side of the road which is the post hardcore/emo/rock whatever scene for years. Through the prism of buzz bands that flash and burn in dirty clubs under piles of screaming kids who will denounce them a month later it gets harder for words like longevity and individuality, originality and endurance to surface in the wash of MP3s and P2Ps that carry them to spread and deletion.
In every band stickered corner in every smoke filled club from New York to California, Armor For Sleep has been showcasing their unique sound to thousands of kids who show up religiously and repeatedly to sing every word almost to the point of absurdity. In the past two years they have supported Fall Out Boy, Taking Back Sunday, Midtown, From Autumn To Ashes, Further Seems Forever, Bane and countless others. They have also done their own full U.S. headlining tours.
If the last two years have been only a prelude to what the band is ultimately capable of, and if the success of their debut album Dream To Make Believe is any indication, Armor For Sleep is destined for canonization in the fluctuating music genre they have helped to create from the ground up. “We have seen our friends bands blow up overnight,” says singer/songwriter/guitar player Ben Jorgensen, “and we’re always happy for them. We have just been working hard focusing on our sound and touring nonstop until we are so close to the brink of insanity that it hurts.” Bands grow. Whether it’s constant touring, self-reflection, or just being jaded from the crap bombarding modern rock radio, bands mature.
“We’re not afraid to write the songs we want to write,” Jorgensen said, admitting that the band was a little timid with their debut album. After working with producer Machine (Clutch, Lamb of God, White Zombie, King Crimson, Vision of Disorder) in an assortment of studios in Hoboken, New Jersey for two months, Armor For Sleep emerged with the 11-song album equipped with their signature evocative vocals, and hauntingly catchy melodies. Noted for his work with progressive metal bands, it was Machine’s first time producing a band with a sound like Armor For Sleep, and what came out of it is sure to bring a new kind of reverence to the rock and roll community.
With the first lines “Believe the news / I’m gone for good,” of the opening track, “Car Underwater,” listening to the album is like taking the hand of a ghost as he guides you around to the different people and places he likes to check up on, and in doing so, tells you the story of his life. Digging deeper into the musical styles of their genre, what comes out of What To Do When You Are Dead seems less like an experiment and more like what happens when everything just clicks and gears start turning by themselves, creating an album that promises to shine like fresh flowers on the gravesite of an industry of regenerated soulless music to fall asleep to.
What To Do When You Are Dead offers the perfect balance between a self-contained concept album and a powerful collection of songs, completely unaware of each other’s existence. “We wanted this record to be a record where each song could be listened to individually,” Jorgensen says “But still have a story flickering through every song, pointing the listener down the path we’ve paved for them.” Where Dream To Make Believe dealt very much with time and space, What To Do When You Are Dead moves in cinematic scenes through the passage of life and death. The lyrics have the band’s original literary presence that makes this album feel like every line was specifically written to fit with every guitar note, bass line and drum beat in perfect cadence.
As the album moves from an actual death, to being in heaven and alone, to floating above the trees of a hometown and walking as a ghost through a graveyard, Armor For Sleep encompasses the feelings so inherent with youth. The feelings of loneliness, of social suicide, and of being an outsider conveyed in their songs put them in time with the music, and in the category of bands that connect with an entire generation, something the bigger bands of today seem to fall short of. But don’t expect them to realize the power they have over the people listening to their records.
“We are just doing what we love,” Jorgensen says, “what never crosses our minds is what other people will like… we just write music and I just write words that make me feel something in my gut. That is our only platform and always will be.” The sound is delicate and combustible, using both clean and distorted guitar tones with a lot of slide power chords and punctuating notes that appear like gunfire across the appropriate tracks. The lyrics are meticulously crafted, smart and well placed and Jorgensen’s voice is soaked with reverberation and infectious melody that can be both calm at times or impetuously turbulent.
The ancient Greeks never wrote obituaries. Instead they asked only one question: Did they have passion? After their major success in such a short time, it is obvious that Armor For Sleep has a positive answer for that question. What To Do When You Are Dead is that answer.
There was a period of time when Camm Knopp wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He’d already played in a few bands and had even ghostwritten some songs for another artist, even approaching acclaimed producer Matt Squire (Demi Lovato, All Time Low, Panic! At The Disco, Ariana Grande) for his expertise. The problem was that nothing was really clicking. Undeterred and still inspired, however, he began writing songs for himself, using his own frustrations as inspiration. Never Loved wasn’t even a glimmer in his eye at the time. That soon changed.
“I was going from project to project and it just wasn’t right,” he explains. “I was in college and not having a good time. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was going to do. I knew what I loved and what I wanted to do, but people thought I was crazy that I wanted to make music. I was just fed up and felt like I had to do something, because I was so frustrated and wanted to move forward.”
Knopp took the reins by sending a few demos to Squire to see what he thought. They hadn’t had all that much interaction and had never met in person, but Squire remembered him and, more importantly, really liked his demos. And so the pair began working together and everything just fell into place. After a period of creative stagnation, Knopp had found the inspiration he’d been lacking. “Dead Inside” – this debut EP’s punchy, catchy, hooky opener – was the first track the pair recorded and it proved to be something of a catalyst. In fact, Knopp was so certain about these songs and working with Squire that he took the plunge and self-funded the recordings.
During this time period, while Knopp was in and out of the studio, he started assembling the rest of Never Loved, namely bassist and long-term friend Jay Gayoso, and drummer Kevin Blackburn, who the pair knew through the local scene. And while Knopp already had the absolute courage of his convictions for this set of songs, the chemistry with the other two cemented it. Slick yet savage, they navigate his internal anxieties, insecurities and emotions via crunching, riffs and a knack for killer yet off-kilter hooks and soaring choruses. Underpinned by a ’90s grunge/alt. rock aesthetic, these four songs are vital, heartfelt bursts of intelligent and emotional angst.
“Dead Inside” battles against Knopp’s feelings of creative stagnation and uncertainty, while “Charged” is an almost sinister take on power-pop, all fizzing, fuzzy guitars, visceral screams and existential subject matter. Yet, Never Loved isn’t a band who want to stick to just one genre, either – “Gone” is one long crescendo that’s riddled with intense electronic flourishes, while “Goddamn” is a perfect pop song that doesn’t sound anything like a pop song and is all the better for it. Not only that, but it leaves the door wide open for the future.
“With this EP,” says Knopp, “I was just writing to write. Everyone always says that you’ve got to pick a sound, but I’m like ‘No way – just write you.’ People will see with this EP see that we have a few different sides, so we can go down different paths in the future. I like that we’re not pigeonholed into a genre.”
Together, these four songs mark Knopp out as a truly passionate, skilled songwriter, and Never Loved as a tight, cohesive unit. Each track also echoes the grand ambitions and ideas they have when it comes to being in a band. This is what they want to do and the only thing they want to do. They’ve already shown they’ve got the work ethic, the drive and the determination to make it happen, not to mention the songwriting chops. It’s early days – this debut EP on Equal Vision is just the very first step – but they’ve already looking far into the future, both literally and metaphorically.
“I’ve already written a lot of new material,” he says of Never Loved’s next steps. “The goal is to build a really solid fan base – and to be the biggest band in the world. It’d be awesome to be the next Nirvana, but we want to just keep growing and become the best we can be.” On the basis of this EP alone, none of that actually seems like too much of a stretch.